What do you get if you fuse Contra, Punch-Out!! and Shadow of the Colossus with a toaster? The answer is a fantastic indie game to kick off April on the Nintendo eShop. Coined by the creator behind Nintendo 3DS favorite Gunman Clive, Mechstermination Force has you single-handedly going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest and baddest mecha to invade our beloved planet Earth. You play as a nameless soldier with a bag full of boomsticks and a baseball bat, ready to smash the mecha’s red buttons like Simon Cowell on a bad day. There are no levels to play through, no minions to mow down, just boss fight after boss fight in a steel-shredding showdown where the tale of the tape has no cap in weight division.
The rules are very simple. Run, gun, hop, climb and dangle off gigantic robots to uncover weak spots that are begging to be kissed by the wrath of Lucille. Each boss plays out very differently from one another and brings with them their own set of patterns and puzzles to decipher. For instance, a giant mechanical millipede will test your hopping dexterity with a lateral shower of missiles. Or a titanic tin man will challenge your monkey bar skills to the limit, as it twists and turns between two skyscrapers trying to scratch that annoying gun-toting human itch. It’s a test of will, memory, and reaction as each thrilling encounter persuaded me to come back for more. If I didn’t manage to get the kill, I would certainly learn from the experience to be back smarter and sharper for my next attempt.
It’s this very thought process that makes Mechstermination Force so God damn addictive. To get a boss battle to feel so rewarding in any other game would be an accomplishment in its own right, but to have a game solely focusing on boss battles succeed as much as it does here is an outstanding achievement. It took me seven hours and three minutes to slay all 14 mecha with 193 retries in total. Even then, the very thought of earning three stars on them all and claim the “No Damage” bonus is a daunting but very tempting proposition. The challenge on its own is tough but incredibly rewarding. Especially the end encounter which forced me to adopt a whole new control mechanic altogether, then slung me right into the shark tank until I learned to fully master it.
I don’t want to delve too deeply into the boss fights themselves because of how surprising and versatile they all are to face. What I will tell you is that the way the controls are set up aids the multi-tasking required to overcome such threats. The Left Stick is used for both multi-directional gunfire and character movement. Holding down the ZR Button will keep your hero in place to fine-tune that firing angle in order to deal some damage. The same button is also used to grip onto certain areas of the mech, making climbing and shooting at the same time an impossibility. The developer could have easily decided on using the Right Stick to fire and keep the flow in locomotion. However, the concept of coordinating under such demands is all clearly part of the puzzle.
The only real issue I had was in how easily I could come to rely on one certain weapon. It may not be the best choice in claiming the three-star rank, but it did seem like an obvious crutch to lean on. I wouldn’t say it gave the game an easy mode or anything, but it did feel dominant enough to brush off the rest of the arsenal I earned along the way. The other problem I had was knowing that the developer has no intention to release any downloadable content down the line, according to a recent interview. I found this to be a real shame because I was seriously left begging for more as the credits rolled, but maybe a sequel could happen. It does seem to be a Nintendo Switch exclusive for the time being though, with is good news for the hardened Nintendo fans wanting to get a one-up in a console debate.
Visually, the game is bright, bold and beautiful both on the TV when docked and in Handheld mode. The resolution is very clean with zero frame drops of any kind that I noticed. It just looks satisfying to play as transformations unfold and animations roll freely. The music matches the style wonderfully well also, catering for the epicness of a big confrontation mixed with that “Oorah!” Cameron-esque marine vibe. The hub-base that the character wanders around between conflicts fuels this flavor further with fellow soldiers dotted around camp expressing their excuses for not being quite as successful in battle.
For £10.99 ($11.99) on the Nintendo eShop, there really is no excuse not to have a crack at taking down an iron giant in Mechstermination Force. Just as Gunman Clive was so reasonably priced, Hörberg Productions has ensured that there can be quality to be found in such a bargain. Mechstermination Force also happens to be a fantastic co-op game too, allowing plenty of room on-screen for both players to team up for some epic tin-bashing goodness. If you happen to have the change to spare, do yourself a favor and recruit yourself into the war against the machines. It may not have the usually expected run-and-gun Metal Slug action to fill the gap between boss fights, but when those boss fights are this good it doesn’t really need them.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Hörberg Productions